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Gigantic Up Front: Self Esteem - Don Valley Bowl, Sheffield (Review)

Posted on Tuesday 5th September 2023 at 16:00

Sarah Moore

Written by
Sarah Moore


Rebecca Lucy Taylor, known better as Self Esteem, has been touring relentlessly since the release of her sophomore album Prioritise Pleasure in 2021. Beginning in October the same year, I Tour This All The Time has seen Self Esteem perform to over 40,000 fans all around the UK and has appeared at what feels like every major music festival along the way. Put simply, there can’t be a Self Esteem fan left in the UK that hasn’t had the opportunity to witness her incredible live show. But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make the pilgrimage to see it again.

Setting aside the unbelievable stamina required for her touring schedule, Self Esteem continues to impress throughout her career; along the Prioritise Pleasure journey, she became the first artist to sell out three shows at Manchester’s Albert Hall, and was nominated for a BRIT Award and Mercury Prize. Miraculously, she also found time to compose the soundtrack to Olivier Award-winning play Prima Facie, and most recently received an honorary Doctorate of Music at the University of Sheffield: her hometown. Clearly hard work is no stranger to Self Esteem, and the last two years have undoubtedly proven that she’s one of the most industrious musicians around.

It feels fitting that as summer and festival season comes to a close in 2023 – in spite of the impending heatwave that dares to argue otherwise – Self Esteem brought the Prioritise Pleasure tour to an end in its natural home. On the first weekend of September, the Rock N Roll Circus descended on Don Valley Bowl in Sheffield and brought one final hurrah for Self Esteem and her band, before inevitably retreating to complete that coveted third album.

The Rock N Roll Circus boasted a strong line-up this year, with two stages on Don Valley Bowl bringing immaculate end-of-summer vibes to Yorkshire. The main stage line-up was opened by local legends – or at least their tribute counterpart, Arctic Numpties – and was followed by drag punk icon turned Celebrity Gogglebox co-star Bimini. The supporting line-up was compelling enough to keep Don Valley buzzing since gates opened in the late afternoon. Plus, the stunning circus performers in between sets removed the temptation for crowds to stray too far from the main stage in favour of soaking up that late evening sun.

Natalie Imbruglia took to the stage as the penultimate support act, and won over the crowd with a career-spanning set that showcased her flawless vocals and high-spirited presence. Regularly turning to converse with the crowd and unafraid to chat away in front of thousands, Imbruglia’s acting career clearly prepared her for a life in the spotlight. Her confidence and cheerful nature was endearing and infectious. Saving her breakout hit “Torn” for the second-to-last song, Imbruglia anticipated the crowd’s reaction, and embraced it gladly.

Confidence Man filled the final slot, and their high-octane set reverberated around the circus tent. The vast majority of the crowd were on their feet and dancing to their pulsating electro-pop party anthems. Strobing costumes upped the ante and successfully brought disco to Don Valley with hit tracks such as “On & On (Again)” and “Toy Boy”.

The sun began to descend, and the crowds drew closer to the main stage as Confidence Man concluded their set. After a thrilling performance from two aerialists to the sides of the stage, Self Esteem’s incredible band finally filled out the stage, before RLT herself appeared atop of a small set of stairs sitting centre stage.

After diving into the titular “Prioritise Pleasure”, the crowd were energised; piercing screams echoed so loudly around the tent that they threatened to drown out the production. Immediately it was clear that this show – the final of the album cycle – was about to be special. Rattling through the first portion of the set, we were delighted by further Prioritise Pleasure tracks “Fucking Wizardry”, “Moody” and “Just Kids” before the first interlude came, all with the signature Self Esteem choreography, alongside an understated yet wholly impactful production and live band.

The show was split into three parts, each with costume changes and a minor yet effective change of the stage set up. Throughout the evening, the screens declared biting lyrics from her songs in classic Self Esteem style: “PRIORITISE PLEASURE”, “RECOMMEND LISTENING”, “THERE IS NOTHING THAT TERRIFIES A MAN MORE THAN A WOMAN WHO APPEARS COMPLETELY DERANGED”. Having been fortunate enough to see Self Esteem a handful of times now, this show felt especially charged… as if it were the very last chance she’d have to speak her truth to the masses. I suppose it will be, for a while.

In between songs, Taylor appeared more sentimental and reflective than on previous tours. It’d been laid out in writing: the last Prioritise Pleasure show. No additional dates, no new festival performances. It was clearly emotional for the entire band, who throughout the evening shared moments of appreciation – shaking hands, hugs and kisses, poignantly punctuating the evening. Tears threatened to fall from Taylor’s face on more than one occasion, as she stopped to compose herself to tell us how grateful she was for all of it. For the crowd, it felt more intimate than ever before, in spite of the thousands-strong crowd packed into Don Valley on this day.

It wasn’t all tears and cuddles though, as the set rumbled along and more emotions were laid bare on the stage. We were met with cut-throat angst around the mid-point, as we heard the unreleased set-regular “Mother”, bursting shortly into the pounding “How Can I Help You”. The lion’s share of the set was naturally made up of Prioritise Pleasure tracks, interspersed with a couple of early tracks from debut record Compliments Please, including “Girl Crush” and “The Best”.

As the main set neared its conclusion, after gut-wrenchingly raw performances of “John Elton” and “The 345”, the crowd prepared for what was of course going to be the highlight of the evening. “I Do This All The Time” is a tear-jerker at the best of times, but this one tugged at the heartstrings of every single person in attendance. As the lyric “all the days you get to have are big” echoed around the tent, I think every single person at Don Valley that day would agree that this has never felt more true.

The encore began with “I’m Fine”, a real set highlight – dog barks included at the end, as standard. As the show came to a close, it was undeniable that this was the end of an era for Self Esteem, and for her fans too. The Rock N Roll Circus show was a truly shared experience and one that will be impossible to replicate. But, as sad as we were to see her go, I think everybody at Don Valley felt excited to see what RLT comes back with next time.



Self Esteem played:

Prioritise Pleasure

Fucking Wizardry


Just Kids


How Can I Help You

Love Second

Girl Crush

John Elton

The 345

You Forever

I Do This All the Time



I'm Fine

The Best

Still Reigning



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